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Tom Ross: Making the French connection

— The American Kennel Club announced today that owners of French poodles have 96 hours to certify their pets have taken an oath of loyalty or face repatriation — to France, that is.

The politicization of poodles has come about as the result of the actions of two well-meaning patriots, Rep. Bob Ney, R-Ohio and Rep. Walter Jones, R-N.C. As most people in Western Civilization know by now, Ney and Jones were behind measures taken March 11 to change the name of the fried potatoes served in Congressional cafeterias from “French fries,” to “Freedom fries.”

The action was intended to be a patriotic gesture signifying profound displeasure with the French government’s insistence on blocking American and British efforts to get a war-enabling resolution pushed through the United Nations.



Now, the congressmen’s potato gambit has spiraled out of control, spilling over into jingoism and outright chauvinism (Wait just a second. Isn’t chauvinism a French word?)

Poodle owners across the land were going on the Internet over the weekend, frantically trying to find out how to get green cards for their pooches.



The panic wasn’t limited to owners of noisy little dogs.

A man was spied Sunday afternoon tossing a case of French salad dressing overboard into Boston Harbor.

Actor Gene Hackman announced he is returning the Oscar he won in 1971 for the film, “The French Connection,” to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

Basketball legend Larry Bird’s hometown is no longer known as French Lick, Indiana. It’s just plain Lick, Indiana. Furthermore the Lick town council has banned French kissing in the city limits. One can no longer employ one’s tongue while smooching in Lick. And you have Jacques Chirac to thank for this state of affairs.

The drunks in New Orleans’ French Quarter were demanding their money back Saturday night.

Sales representatives of French’s mustard were dispatched to supermarkets where they were hastily pasting American flag stickers on their product’s distinctive yellow containers.

Many Americans have begun expressing the sentiment that the French have forgotten what our soldiers did for them in 1944. However, history professor Frank O. Phile pointed out that Americans are conveniently overlooking a not-so-little skirmish called the Siege of Yorktown that took place in the autumn of 1781. It was the battle that effectively routed the English and saved our (French Canadian?) bacon in the Revolutionary War.

Lord Cornwallis had amassed, 7,500 troops in defensive positions at the coastal port of Yorktown. George Washington called upon his pal the Marquis de Lafayette to prevent Cornwallis from escaping by land. Then French troops under General Rochambeau joined Washington’s troops and marched south to join up with a French fleet at the head of Chesapeake Bay.

Running low on food, and outnumbered as he was, Cornwallis surrendered, and the rest was history. Or, as one of my colleagues at the newspaper put it, “Had it not been for the French at Yorktown, we’d still be speaking English today!”

Here’s another thing. It was exactly 200 years ago when Napoleon sold us the Louisiana Purchase, including the entire state of Colorado, for a lousy $15 million.

Napoleon was a pretty good general but he was a lousy Realtor. In 1762, he ceded all of France’s holdings west of the Mississippi river and east of the Rockies to Spain. Spain couldn’t afford the association fees and gave all that territory back to France in 1800.

Napoleon turns around in 1803 and thinks he’s pulled a fast one on Thomas Jefferson by sticking him with that vast heathen territory for a cool $15 million.

Obviously, Tommy Jefferson had a feel for how real estate in Aspen and Vail could appreciate, and Napoleon was clueless.

On a serious note, I ran into an acquaintance last week who told me he’d had an unpleasant experience riding up the gondola a few days earlier.

Recognizing his French accent, the other gentlemen in the gondola car suggested it might be appropriate for them to toss him out the window.

Fortunately, my friend found a way to defuse the situation. He told the men he is married to an American woman. He and his wife had a chance a few years ago to return to Normandy with her father. The old soldier had landed on the beach on a bloody day in June nearly 59 years ago. They celebrated the bonds that sprang from World War II.

During that same visit, an innkeeper took my friend aside and confided how much he detests Americans. My friend took the man by the lapels and explained a few things to him about the Twentieth Century.

The American people and the people of France, even when they’ve found things to resent about one another, have always shared a friendship that was capable of transcending two quarreling heads of state.

You don’t have to like the politics of Jacques Chirac, but don’t transfer that dislike onto everything and everyone Francais.


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